The Fort Smith Art Center is located in the Vaughn-Schaap House, one of the few remaining examples of Victorian Second Empire architecture in Fort Smith. It was the first home to be restored in the Belle Grove Historic District, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Documentation supports that E.B. Bright built a home on this site sometime between 1855 and 1857. The property was sold to John King in 1857 for . The next 40 years were tempestuous ones. In the midst of the Civil War Mr. King sold the property to Raphael M. Johnson for a mere $1,500. John Vaugh purchased the property in 1857, but soon had to forfeit it to the State. He recovered it in 1855 and continued to suffer business losses and had to mortgage the property several times before he finally sold it to John Schaap in 1897.
The Schaap family owned the home for more than 60 years. Mr. Schaap left the home to his wife, Anna, when he died in 1934. Mrs. Schaap kept up the home and also the family company, Schaap & Sons Drug Company until her death in 1957. Her daughters, Misses Alma and Amelia Schaap were the last residents of the home and left soon after their mother's death. The elegant family furnishings were sold at public auction and the Associated Artists of Fort Smith purchased the property in 1960.
The Associated Artists was formed in 1948 and for many years had saved and raised money to purchase a place where they could conduct classes and exhibit art. After purchasing the Schaap home they began making improvements and in 1961 opened the building as a public art center. In 1968 the Associated Artists were incorporated as the Fort Smith Art Center. To provide additional gallery space they built an annex in the mid-60's and a corridor in the 70's linking the original building to the annex. This corridor provided exhibit space for the art center's large collection of Boehm porcelain. In the late 1970's the Fort Smith Art Center began a major renovation project and the historic house was restored to its original Victorian elegance.
Each month the Fort Smith Art Center showcases work in a variety of media by regional and nationally recognized artists. Annual photography and art competitions feature artwork by artists from across the country. The art center also has a permanent collection of contemporary regional art which is exhibited on a rotating basis,